Notes Composed Upon the Death of Terry

Michael Jauchen

- for Terry

Let’s have a contest, Roger said. Which one of us can mourn the best? I’ll start off. I have taken the liberty of sending a brief but heartfelt note of consolation to Terry’s immediate family. The card exhibits a grouping of pastel flowers on the front—a combination of Lilac and Lily of the Valley tamed to a graceful S curve assemblage of purple and white. Laid out above the arrangement is an introductory message of condolence followed by a teasing ellipsis. The eight-line poem on the card’s interior deftly balances the overwhelming surge of grief so common among mourning families with the aesthetic pleasure and reassurance derived from the reading of any well-turned rhyming couplet. On first glance it seems like a small gesture—not worth very much—but it does reveal a crucial understanding that sometimes, the best way to mourn the death of a dear friend is by staying out of the family’s way.

Although I would grant your mourn points for simplicity and effect, said Dwight, you get docked for longevity, something my preliminary plan of lamentation for Terry, as you will see, has in spades. At any and all future events where I plan to publicly drink copious amounts of alcohol, I promise to pour a noticeable portion of my first drink on to the ground. When the liquid hits the concrete, I will lift my eyes to the darkening sky and say to the party guests surrounding me at the time, “That is for Terry, because he could not be here.” I will treat any disrespect of this gesture by those surrounding guests not only as an affront to me but also as an affront to the sacred and cherished memory of our beloved Terry. I will glare at these offenders throughout the night, my eyes threatening in their unblinking persistence, despite the pleas of my cohorts who will advise me to, “Let it slide because it don’t mean nothing and the last thing Terry would have wanted was to be the source of party drama and besides the aforementioned unnamed affronters is just a bunch of trick ass bitches anywho.”

This is all child’s play, said T.C., and both of the plans so far occur on such a microscopic level that they do nothing substantial to truly further the legacy left to us by our sweet Terry, which should be the object of any bereavement worth its salt. Consequently, I am planning to write a personal letter to Stan Goldberg, creator and presiding head of the Archie Comic empire, notifying him of the recent tragic events and of Terry’s lifelong love of all things Archie. I will plead in a professional manner with Mr. Goldberg, asking him to consider a commemoration to Terry’s memory in an upcoming episode of one of the many Archie Double Digests churned out of Mamaroneck, New York, nine times a year. There are a number of possibilities, Mr. Goldberg, I will write, for the inclusion of a memorializing wink to a loyal subscriber and a dear, dear friend to so many who now suffer. Perhaps you could have ‘Terry’ show up as a new student at Riverdale High. Perhaps he could appear as an attractive alternate date for Betty and/or Veronica after Archie flubs yet another opportunity with them both. Perhaps ‘Terry’ could be Principal Weatherbee’s mischievous nephew who frames Archie for a disastrous explosion inside Professor Flutesnoot’s chemistry lab. As you see, Mr. Goldberg, there are a myriad of minor roles you could invent or manipulate to honor the memory of our Terry and make his name ring out among your readership with the knell of immortality enjoyed by all literary characters.

Now this contest is finally getting somewhere, said Kenny. I was wondering when it would. Now sit back and listen to my own proposal of grief: Terry’s fascination with ferrets was well-known among those who were closest to him. This was true even after a traumatic childhood incident in which his younger sister left her bedroom door slightly ajar, thus granting adequate passage for Terry’s first pet ferret, Kipling, to enter her bedroom when she was not there and maul her unknowing parakeet, Strawberry Shortcake Cory, who lived in a cage within facile leaping distance from the footboard of the bed. Terry’s discovery of the dismantled Strawberry Shortcake Cory led to his subsequent attempt to give the bird a respectful burial without letting his sister know what had actually happened. He told her Strawberry Shortcake Cory died of Sudden Bird Death Syndrome, which he claimed was the avian equivalent of S.I.D.S. His explanation, however, worked only in the most minimal way to alleviate the young girl’s sadness. It was like she knew he was lying. And from that point forward, their relationship suffered a sundering that was never wholly mended. And this is exactly where I come in. I, as Terry’s champion mourner, first vow to study and know each nook and cranny of the ferret species. And then, equipped with this comprehensive ferret knowledge, I promise to court Terry’s younger sister—asking her out to movies, taking her to quiet dinners at the pizza parlor, driving her around in my mother’s Pontiac minivan—until she agrees to accept me as her one and only. Any rejections by her will only serve as a sign that my bereavement is not complete, that my courting is lackluster, and that Terry, absconded somewhere above us in the heavens, is still cosmically dissatisfied. But when his sister eventually gives in to my advances, and gentlemen, she will eventually give in, the combination of my ferret knowledge coupled with my love for and intimacy with Terry’s little sister, will serve as my memorial gift to him, a symbolic token of their now mended relationship.

A bit long-winded and a tad bit incestuous, Roger said, but I have to admit, it’s a damn fine mourn.

In honor of Terry, said Uncle Crispin, I promise to give up my fetish for men’s hands and the photographing of men’s hands.

Even better, shouted T.C.

Then Jimmy McGinley spoke: Here’s my entry. I have taken the liberty of constructing a box of pine, specific to the dimensions of my own (though I admit this with great sadness and remorse) spry bodily frame. At dawn of this upcoming Tuesday, I will wake soberly, put on an expensive black suit and tie, climb into this box, and close the lid over me. I will then be lowered into the ground—into a hole six-feet deep which I began digging (literally) after hearing the heartsplitting news about Terry, but that I feel I have been digging (figuratively) for my entire life. Once I am at the bottom of the hole, I will have six hired boys from the neighborhood heap dirt on top of me. I will remain in the pine box below the dirt, breathing through a six and a half foot chute of bamboo, for the customary period of mourning or until the claustrophobia and/or shortness of breath and/or hyperventilation and/or quick working termites bring my memorial to an unfortunately abrupt end. If any of these calamities occur, I will push a button, colored red and about the size of a half-dollar, which will be connected by closed circuit to an illuminated sign above the commemorative gravesite. This will notify my spectators that Terry’s spirit has given me the signal that my mourning has been of a sufficient duration. The same six boys from the neighborhood will be called via walkie-talkie to come and quickly dig me out. During my exile inside the box, I plan to speak all of the thoughts I have about Terry into a portable cassette recorder. These thoughts will no doubt be privileged due to my earthly attachment to him. Upon resurrection, I will collect these thoughts, edit them for cohesiveness and clarity, and collect them in a book entitled, “Simply Terry.” All proceeds from the subsequent sale of this collection will go toward the creation of an award for the best freshman essay written by a minority at the community college on Wheatland Avenue, over which I plan to preside as head of the judgment committee. Sure, the process will be trying and involved, but it’s what T-Boz, as those of us who knew him best called him, would have wanted.

We sat grown quiet at the name of T-Boz. And in that silence, everyone looked to me for my entry into the contest. I surveyed the circle of men. I closed my eyes and began to cry. I wept and wept. I heaved with tears. My hands shook. My shoulders went up and then down. I cried until I felt my body utterly empty itself of all sentiment, until I felt it exhausted of tears. I could hear all of the men shift in their chairs. And when I finally looked up, all of them suddenly began clapping, stomping their feet, and shouting hooray, hurrah, hooray.

Michael Jauchen hails from Dallas, Texas, but now lives in Lafayette, Louisiana, where he is pursuing a Ph.D. in Creative Writing. His work has appeared in Snow Monkey, The King's English, and H_NGM_N.